Posts tagged ‘gifted children’

When Being AWKWARD Can Have Its Benefits

I have some clients, young and old, who have  social skills that might be considered “awkward.” They do not have autism, but others often mislabel them because of their awkwardness. I was so happy to read the book Awkward: The Science of Why We’re Socially Awkward and Why That’s Awesome because it helps illuminate the reason for the awkwardness, and the benefits of this brain style.

You see, people who are awkward have a cognitive style that does not have their social brain engaged 24/7, as is the case with the “neurotypical” person. The awkward person has to realize they are in a situation requiring the use of their social brain, and that is why they might seem so awkward when they enter a room or attempt to join in on a conversation. Some of my clients are brutally honest, and I know it is due to not using a social filter, and it is not because they are being rude.

The really awesome part of the awkward brain is that “they are a passionate bunch who tend to be obsessive about the things that interest them. Their obsessive interest to learn everything they can about a topic mirrors the ‘rage to master’ that researchers observe in high-achieving people.” (xvi) Whereas socially-aware people see the big social picture, awkward people have a spotlighted view of the world that isn’t focused on social norms. “Awkward people’s minds tend to make them natural scientists because they are good at seeing details, picking up on patterns in those details, and taking a systematic approach to problems.” (xvii)

Awkward is divided into three parts: PART I: So This is Awkward, PART II: This is Getting Awkward, and PART III: How the Awkward Become Awesome. PART III includes information about the relationship between giftedness and awkwardness, as well as groundbreaking innovations and the awkward brain.

For a great introduction to this book, read the author’s article, “Being Socially Awkward is Actually Awesome, According to Science, by therapist, Ty Tashiro, a self-described awkward person.

 

 

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September 1, 2017 at 11:13 am Leave a comment

When Processing Speed Slows You Down

Most of my young clients who are twice-exceptional have neuropsychological assessment scores that highlight a variety of slow processing speeds. That asynchrony between their intellectual abilities and their processing issues leads some parents and teachers to label these kids as lazy, willful, or inattentive.

Although these are common issues for kids who are twice-exceptional, few parents or teachers have the necessary training to recognize and then accommodate for these processing speed variations.

I was fortunate to find the book Bright Kids Who Can’t Keep Up by Ellen Braaten, h.D. and Brian Willoughby, Ph.D. Braaten is the Director of the Learning and Emotional Assessment Program at Massachusetts General Hospital and Assistant Professor Psychology at Harvard Medical School. Willoughby is a staff Psychologist at the Learning and Emotional Assessment Program at Massachusetts General Hospital and a faculty member at Harvard Medical School.

As the authors say, “In general, though, processing speed involves one or more of the following functions: the amount of time it takes to perceive information (this can be through any of the senses, but usually through the visual and auditory channels), process information, and/or formulate or enact a response. Another way to define processing speed is to say it’s the time required to perform an intellectual task or the amount of work that can be completed with a certain period of time. Even more simply, processing speed could be defined as how long it takes to get stuff done.”

The authors break processing speeds into three categories: visual processing (“how quickly our eyes perceive information and relay it to the brain”), verbal processing (“how quickly we hear a stimulus and react to it”), and motor speed (“fine motor agility, such as how fast we can copy something or put pegs in a board, rather than to how fast someone can run, for example”).

Processing speed issues are often an indication of other learning challenges including:

  • ADHD
  • Dyslexia
  • Nonverbal learning disabilities
  • Language-based learning disabilities
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Psychosocial stressors

Most kids who have slow processing speed may share some of these common issues:

  • Slow reading
  • Slow writing
  • Slow responses to questions
  • Slow responses to requests
  • Poor memory recall
  • Slow completion of work
  • Appear unmotivated or apathetic
  • Appear to be fidgety

For lots of detailed information on processing speed in the classroom and at home, this book is a wonderful resource.

September 14, 2016 at 4:21 pm Leave a comment

Taking a Journey into the Rainforest Mind

It has been more than four years (and two grandchildren) since I last wrote a post for this site. In that time, I have continued working with amazing gifted and twice-exceptional clients, and I have read dozens of great books. So where to begin, that’s easy: Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth by Paula Prober. I wrote a previous post about Prober in March 2102, entitled Giftedness and the Rainforest Mind: Our Endangered Students. Her blog posts continue to be insightful, humorous, and important.

Your Rainforest Mind is THE book for those people beginning their exploration of gifted issues as well as those (like me) who have been in gifted education for decades. I own dozens of book on giftedness (and I have read many more), and this book rises to the top for its holistic approach to understanding gifted people.

As a professor of gifted education, I was always looking for the best resources to expand my students’ hearts and minds about gifted people. I certainly would have required this book for my courses on “Introduction to Gifted Education” and “Social and Psychological Foundations of Gifted Children.”

What makes Prober’s work seminal is that it includes the stories and voices of her clients, it provides a wealth of valuable resources, and it has the potential of having a significant impact on gifted adults, and on the parents of gifted children.

The stories of Prober’s clients are so compelling, I am grateful to be able to learn from them, and I know many readers will now hope to find a therapist who connects so deeply with their rainforest minds.

September 14, 2016 at 1:15 pm Leave a comment

Appreciative Coaching with Gifted Kids: Strategies for Parents and Teachers

Jacqueline Binkert and Ann Clancy, two of the authors of Appreciative Coaching: A Positive Process for Change, are also authors of an online article called “A Coaching Journey from Resilience and Well-being to Flourishing.”  That article emphasizes that humans have the capacity to thrive and flourish rather than settling for mere resilience and well-being.  The authors describe flourishing as “a state in which a person feels persistent positive emotions and experiences excellent physical, mental and interpersonal health.”

The Appreciative Coaching approach comes from the work of David Cooperrider and others who created the Appreciative Inquiry movement.  Their work comes from the field of business management and has since been adapted by counselors and life coaches.  I am currently adapting it to my work with student teachers as well as educators in their first three years of teaching.  After reading many books and articles about Appreciative Inquiry and Appreciative Coaching, I have come to believe that this approach would be beneficial to those who live and work with gifted children.

So, what is meant by the Appreciative Approach?  It is a focus on solutions rather than problems.  It is a focus on what is positive with life in general, and situations in the specific, rather than a focus on what is negative.  It is a focus on our hopes and dreams rather than our dreads and fears.  This focus and dialogue about a gifted child’s strengths, successes, lessons learned, and hopes and dreams has the potential to help that child flourish emotionally, socially, and intellectually.

  • Gifted children are not problems to be fixed; they are possibilities to be appreciated and nourished.
  • What we pay attention to will grow.  Pay attention to what you perceive to be your child’s weaknesses, and you will fertilize those negative aspects.  Pay attention to your child’s strengths, and you will see a change in your attitude toward your child.  Look to what you hope for rather than to what is lacking.
  • Use language that is life-enhancing.
  • Although your child is young and has limited life experiences, listen to your child’s life story and be willing to share yours.
  • Model gratitude.  The focus on the positives and successes in our lives provides us with the energy for thriving and flourishing in our lives rather than merely surviving.

 

End-of-the-Day Reflections:

  1. What was your favorite part about today?  Tell me the story.  How did it make you feel?
  2. What one thing did you do today that made you feel especially proud of yourself?
  3. What did you learn today that excited you (in school, with friends, at home)?
  4. What are you going to dream about in your sleep?
  5. What wishes do you have for an even more exciting day tomorrow?  What wishes do you have for your siblings, parents, grandparents, classmates, teachers? (choose one or two)

Life-Long Learning: The Joy of Learning:

 1.  Think back to a time when you were really excited about something you were learning.  A time when learning came alive for you.  A time when what you learned became an integral part of who you are today.  Tell me about that time.  What was happening?  Who was involved?  What did you do?  What did the others do?  What was it about you in the experience that brought about a profound sense of learning and growth?

2.  What did you value most about that experience, yourself and the people involved?

3.  Imagine now that you, as a parent, are excelling in creating strength-based and positive learning environments and opportunities for your children.  Your children love learning new things when you are a part of that experience.  What are you doing?  What is happening that is leading to this love of learning?  Tell me about it.  What is happening in them?  Who is involved?  What are they doing?  What is the outcome?

4.  When you think about structured learning environments (school, church/synagogue, community settings), what can we do to create environments that encourage the type of learning you just described?  Share with me at least three things that you can start doing today to help foster a joy and love of learning for the children in your life?

Binkert, J. & Clancy, A.  (2009).  “A Coaching Journey from Resilience and Well-being to Flourishing.”       http://www.appreciativecoaching.com/Coaching_Journey_to_Flourishing_Binkert&Clancy_2009.pdf

Cooperrider, D., Whitney, D. & Stavros, J.  (2003).  Appreciate Inquiry Handbook.  San Francisco: Berett-Koehler.

Dole, D., Silber, J., Mann, A. & Whitney, D.  (2008).  Positive Family Dynamics: AppreciativeQuestions to Bring Out the Best in Families.  Chagrin Falls, Ohio:  Taos Institute Publications.

Orem, S., Binkert, J. & Clancy, A.  (2007).  Appreciative Coaching: A Positive Process for Change.San Francisco:  Jossey-Bass.

May 8, 2012 at 7:59 pm Leave a comment

Giftedness and the Rainforest Mind: Our Endangered Students

Bright, sensitive, intense, are descriptions I hear from many parents of gifted children. While most people think of gifted kids as those with high IQ’s or with high SAT scores, parents of gifted kids know that their children are more than their IQ scores.

Paula Prober (a licensed counselor who works with gifted adults, teens, and families) has put forth a metaphor that quite clearly describes these wonderful people: rainforest minds. As Paula says, “Like the rainforest, gifted individuals are often complex, multi-layered, intense, highly sensitive, colorful, creative, overwhelming, fragile and misunderstood.” I encourage you to click on the link I have created to find out more about her ideas about the rainforest mind.

So why is it that gifted kids are so endangered. Perhaps it is because No Child Left Behind has shifted public attention to students who are unable to meet basic standards, and perhaps it is because there is a general feeling that gifted kids can make it on their own. As a public teacher for more than 25 year, a university professor for another nine, and now as a gifted consultant, I know that gifted children deserve to receive a respectful and appropriate education.

The next time you go for surgery, you need to ask yourself if you want a gifted surgeon, or will you be willing to take one who barely met the standards? The next time you need an attorney, you need to ask yourself if you want a gifted attorney, or will you be willing to take one who barely met the standards? The next time you enroll your child in school, you need to ask yourself if you hope your child is in a classroom with a gifted educator, or are you willing to have your child taught by an educator who barely met the standards? I believe that we need to nurture and nourish all of our children, even those who seem to have great potential. In order to successfully solve the problems we will face in the future, we need citizens who have been encouraged to reach their fullest potential. It is time we cared enough about our gifted students to adequately fund their public school education!

March 28, 2012 at 8:57 pm 1 comment

Gifted Kids as Tall Poppies: Let’s Find Them and Nurture Them

Tall poppies. According to Wikipeda, “the term originates from accounts in Aristotle’s Politics (Book 5, Chapter 10) and Livy’s History of Rome, Book I. Aristotle wrote: ‘Periander advised Thrasybulus by cutting the tops of the tallest ears of corn, meaning that he must always put out of the way the citizens who overtop the rest.’ In Livy’s account, the tyrannical Roman King, Tarquin the Proud, received a messenger from his son Sextus Tarquinius asking what he should do next in Gabii, since he had become all-powerful there. Rather than answering the messenger verbally, Tarquinius went into his garden, took a stick, and symbolically swept it across his garden thus cutting off the heads of the tallest poppies that were growing there….Sextus realized that his father wished him to put to death all of the most eminent people of Gabii, which he then did.”

In modern times, the tall poppies are the people who receive criticism for accomplishments that put them above their peers. I remember the first time I heard about the tall poppy syndrome. It was nearly ten years ago, and Miraca Gross (an expert on gifted education from Australia) was presenting to a group of parents and educators about gifted children. (See her article on exceptionally and profoundly gifted children.) I was deeply moved by her description of how intellectually gifted children are tall poppies who are regularly cut down to size so that they won’t continue to stand out among their peers. A gifted child might experience the following name calling: “overachiever,” “geek,” “nerd,” “brainiac,” “you’re too big for your britches,” “how about giving someone else a chance to shine?” etc.

I find it fascinating that we don’t see all gifts in the same way. Many people fear that by telling intellectually and academically gifted children they are “gifted,” these children might become arrogant and self-absorbed. We don’t seem to have the same fear about the gifted musician we place in the “first chair” when they rise above their peers, nor do we have the same fear when the gifted athlete wins a trophy. The truth is, when academically or intellectually gifted children learn about their “giftedness” there is often a sense of relief. They have known all along that there is a difference in the way they process information and in the speed at which they take in new information. In addition, for those who are bright, sensitive, and intense, they already know that they have a quality of life that is different (not better) than their peers. These tall poppies deserve to understand why they don’t always “fit” academic or socially, and they deserve to be nurtured so that they stand proudly with their petals held high. When you look at the world around us, it is clear that our society cannot afford to lose its tall poppies. I’m wondering how much of your school district’s budget is allocated for gifted education…..(See state by state resources.) To find them and nurture them, it takes a will and it takes money. Be a tall poppy yourself, let your voice stand out above the crowd, and speak up for these children.

March 28, 2012 at 8:54 pm Leave a comment


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